Moroccan couscous and roasted vegetables

I have a slight obsession with Mediterranean food. One of my dream vacations is to go on a Mediterranean cruise because I would love to see all the art and architecture and such, and I want to try all the amazing food! So many beautiful combinations of herbs and spices. I just love it.

A while ago I found a recipe for Moroccan chicken from the Betty Crocker cookbook, and it was amazing. We make it all the time. So I decided to take the basic ideas from that recipe, and adapt it to make Moroccan spiced couscous, and some roasted veggies to go with it.

moroccan couscous and roasted vegetables

its good for youUse whole wheat couscous for a healthier, higher-fiber meal. And all the vegetables are of course so healthy! There’s very little salt since there are so many wonderful spices, and the only fat is from the olive oil, which is also good for you. And of course, it’s delicious!

Put a medium pot on the stove with the water and olive oil, and bring to a boil. In the meantime, chop up all the vegetables, and toss them in a frying pan with olive oil, and a little salt and pepper if desired. Toss regularly, and cook until the onions are tender and the vegetables are getting nicely browned/roasted.

pan roasted vegetables

Once the water boils, add the spices and couscous, remove from heat and cover with a lid. Let it sit for about five minutes, then fluff the couscous with a fork.

moroccan couscous

Serve the roasted veggies with the couscous, along with Moroccan grilled chicken and sliced papaya, if desired. I know, it sounds a little weird to serve papaya with this, but trust me. It’s amazing. The flavors complement each other wonderfully.

moroccan chicken couscous and roasted veggies

Moroccan Couscous and Roasted Veggies

1 Tbsp paprika
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp allspice
pinch of salt
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 cups water
1 cup couscous
1/2 medium onion
1 medium zucchini
8 mushrooms
1/2 red bell pepper
1 small tomato
1-2 Tbsp olive oil

1. Mix all the spices together in a small bowl. In a medium pot, bring the water and olive oil to a boil. Once it comes to a boil, remove from heat, add spice mix and couscous, and cover with a lid for about five minutes.

2. Chop all the vegetables, and toss in a large frying pan with the olive oil. Cook, tossing regularly, until onions are tender and vegetables look nicely roasted.

3. Fluff the couscous with a fork, and serve with the vegetables. Serve with Moroccan grilled chicken and sliced papaya if desired.

For the Moroccan grilled chicken, use the spice mix from above, rub onto a chicken breast, and cook on a grill or frying pan. Slice and serve with the couscous and vegetables.

change it upYou could also add eggplant or artichoke hearts if desired

Mango Avocado Salsa

Mexican food was a staple of my diet all growing up. Mangos, unfortunately, were not. So now I find any excuse I can to sneak mangos into my meals (or salsa) because they’re rather delicious.

mango avocado salsa

If you shop at Costco, you’ve probably seen the mango salsa they sell there. It’s pretty good, but nothing ever quite compares to making it fresh. Especially when you can find good mangos for a good price! One of the keys to making good mango salsa is starting with good mangos. How do you choose a good mango? Find one with as little green as possible! The more red, the more delicious! It should be mostly red, with some yellow (and probably a little green, cuz let’s face it – you’re probably not going to find a perfect one unless you go to the tropics) and it should be somewhat firm but not hard.

So once you’ve got your mangos, you might be wondering what exactly to do with them. They can be a bit tricky, with their big, weird-shaped seed in the middle, and the skin that needs peeled off, but once peeled the mangos are super slippery. Well, let me share what I’ve found to be the easiest, fastest way to cut up a mango:

time saverStart by slicing down one side of the seed, starting at the top towards the middle, and curving outward around the seed, down to the bottom.

how to cut a mango 1

Repeat on the other side, so you end up with two slightly curved pieces that you cut off, and the seed (with some usable fruit still).

how to cut a mango 2

Cut a cross-hatch pattern into the fruit, cutting dow to the skin but not through.

how to cut a mango 3

Then flip it inside out, pushing the fruit up and out of the skin. Some pieces will probably just fall out, and the rest you can just run the paring knife as close to the skin as possible.

how to cut a mango 4

Repeat these steps on the other two sides of the seed (there is much less fruit here, but still enough to be worthwhile).

how to cut a mango 5

And now you’ve got lots of delicious mango bits!

mango salsa recipe

Now it’s salsa time! Chop up the green onion, crush the garlic, seed and chop the tomato and pepper, and cut up the avocado.

To seed the tomato, just cut it in quarters lengthwise, and then run a knife from one end to the other, just under the seeds, and they should fall right off.

mango salsa recipe deseed tomato

To cut up the avocado, basically follow the same method as cutting the mango, but just slice it in half instead of cutting around the seed. Or look at this post for some pictures and tips.

Stir everything up, let it sit for at least 15 minutes so the flavors can mix a bit, and enjoy!

mango salsa

(I know, it doesn’t have any avocado yet here… but it’s still delicious and beautifully colorful!)

Just eat it on chips, or put it on tacos, burritos, quesadillas, nachos….

mango avocado salsa burritos

We made chicken burritos with leftover rotisserie chicken, some refried bean, and the mango avocado salsa, and it was super yummy! So simple, and a great use for any leftover chicken!

mango avocado salsa chicken burrito

Mango Avocado Salsa

2 large ripe mangos
1 roma (or other small-medium) tomato
1 large avocado
1 red pepper
2 green onions
2 garlic cloves

1. Peel and chop the mangos (see tips above). Seed and chop the tomato and pepper. Cut up the avocado. Slice the green onions. Mince or crush the garlic. Mix all ingredients in a bowl.

2. Let sit for about 15 minutes (or longer if you want) for the flavors to mix. Stir and serve!

Makes about 2-3 cups salsa.

change it upAdd a jalapeno or other chili pepper for a spicier salsa. Or add some chopped cilantro! (I just didn’t because my husband doesn’t like it!)

Lentil Vegetable Coconut Korma

Somehow I made it through more than twenty years of life without ever eating Indian food. It’s tragic, really. So to make up for lost time, we eat a lot of Indian food now. It’s just so delicious!

lentil vegetable coconut korma

I’ve experimented with lots of different recipes, but my favorites to make always use coconut milk as a base for the sauce. It gives it so much flavor and makes it nice and creamy! Plus, of my experimental recipes, the ones with coconut milk have always turned out the best. Maybe some day I’ll figure out how to make some other types of Indian food… but coconut milk is just so good I don’t really mind.

We’ve been trying to have at least a few dinners each week without meat. It cuts down on cost significantly, and it’s generally healthier to eat less meat than most people eat. This meal still gets you a nice amount of protein with the lentils and cashews. But you could easily add/substitute chicken, fish, etc. That’s one of my favorite things about this recipe – it’s so versatile! You could honestly put just about anything in there, and it would taste good!

its good for youLentils have tons of soluble fiber (great for lowering cholesterol, filling you up, and stabilizing blood sugar, among other things) and are also high in protein. Carrots have lots of vitamins and antioxidants. Coconut milk has lots of vitamins and minerals, but is a bit high in saturated fats (although with no meat, and spread between at least six servings, it’s not bad.)

vegetable korma recipe

Get the lentils started on the stove while you chop up the vegetables.

vegetable korma with lentils recipe

Add the vegetables and spices, stir, and let it simmer for about 20 minutes, until the lentils and veggies are soft. (If you can find a korma spice mix at the store, that should work just fine. Just check the sodium – a lot of packaged spice mixes have tons of salt!)

coconut korma with lentils and vegetables

Add the tomato paste and coconut milk and stir well. Let it simmer for about 10 minutes. Stir in the cashews. Do a taste test to see if you need to add any more spices or salt. Then serve over rice.

vegetable coconut korma with lentils

Lentil and Vegetable Coconut Korma

1 cup lentils
3 cups water
1 onion
2 cloves garlic
1 red pepper
2 carrots
2 small potatoes
1 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp ginger
1 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (more if you like it hot)
1/4 tsp saffron
3 Tbsp tomato paste
1 can coconut milk
1/4 cashews, roughly chopped
salt to taste

1. Combine lentils and water in a large pan, and bring to boil over medium-high heat. Once it boils, reduce heat to low.

2. While lentils begin cooking, chop the onion, pepper, carrots, and potatoes. Add to the lentils. Crush in the garlic, and add the spices. Let simmer for about 20 minutes, until lentils and vegetables are soft.

3. Stir in tomato paste and coconut milk. Simmer another 10 minutes.

4. Add cashews. Check the flavor, and add salt or more spices if desired. Serve over rice.

Makes about 6 servings

change it upAdd pineapple chunks for a sweeter curry. Add or substitute sweet potatoes, cauliflower, or other vegetables. Add chicken, fish, or beef for a “heartier” meal.

Whole Wheat Pasta with Ricotta and Asparagus

Pasta is one of my go-to meals. When I don’t feel like coming up with something to cook, we have pasta.

The nice thing is, it can be as simple or complex as you want. And you can have a whole meal in one pot. Add some veggies, some meat, some cheese. It’s actually a great way to use up some of your vegetables, too. Seriously, almost any vegetables taste good in pasta. Just saute them in a little olive oil, and throw ’em in with the noodles and sauce! Or even go without sauce, and just sprinkle (generously!) some cheese on top.

So this was my “I don’t feel like cooking but I need to use up that jar of pasta sauce and that asparagus” dinner. I know, I used jarred pasta sauce… I was lazy. But don’t worry, I’m working on a post for my “5 minute marinara” so be on the lookout for that soon!

whole wheat pasta with ricotta and asparagus

Three of my favorite things about this pasta:

1. It only took about 10 minutes to make, since that’s about how long it took to boil the water and cook the pasta. And I only used two pans, so cleanup was quick too!

2. It’s delicious.

3. its good for you I used whole wheat pasta (you can’t even tell a difference in the taste in angel hair pasta); asparagus, which is full of vitamins; and cottage cheese (I know the title says ricotta, but I was being cheap and using what I had) which has lots of protein.

Start off by putting a big pot of water on to boil. Then chop up your asparagus into 1″ pieces.

asparagus

Put a little olive oil in a skillet, heat it up, add the asparagus, and toss regularly. After a couple minutes, crush in a clove of garlic and sprinkle a little salt and pepper.

garlic roasted asparagus

The water should be boiling by now. Add your pasta, and follow the package instructions. (If you’re using angel hair, it only takes about 4 minutes.)

whole wheat angel hair pasta

Drain the pasta, and put it back in the pot. Pour in the sauce and the ricotta or cottage cheese. Heat through, stirring regularly.

whole pasta with ricotta

By now the asparagus should be done – you want it tender-crisp. If it cooks too long it gets kind of limp and mushy. You can either stir it into the pasta, or serve it on top. Sprinkle some parmesan on top, and enjoy!

whole wheat pasta marinara with ricotta and asparagus

Whole Wheat Pasta with Ricotta and Asparagus

1 package whole wheat angel hair pasta
1 jar marinara sauce, or about 2 cups homemade sauce
1 cup ricotta or cottage cheese
10-12 asparagus shoots
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic
salt and pepper
parmesan cheese

1. Boil a large pot of water for the pasta. While waiting for that, trim the asparagus and cut it into 1″ pieces. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan, and add the asparagus, tossing regularly.

2. Once the asparagus has cooked for a few minutes, crush in the clove of garlic, and sprinkle in some salt and pepper. Continue to toss regularly until the asparagus is tender-crisp.

3. Cook the pasta according the package instructions. Drain, and return to pan. Pour in the sauce and ricotta, stir and heat through.

4. Stir in the asparagus, or serve it on top with the parmesan sprinkled on top.

Veggie Banana Bran Muffins (aka Sneaky Muffins)

A while back my toddler went through a super picky phase, especially when it came to eating vegetables.  He used to eat just about anything we gave him, but then he decided he basically only wanted to eat quesadillas and fruit.  I’ve been told this is really common with toddlers, but it’s still rather frustrating at times.  So I had to get a bit more sneaky.

toddler muffins

(I thought this was a good picture for being sneaky since the muffin kind of blends in with the counter! I know, I’m so clever.)

time saverOne of the things I really like about these muffins is that they freeze well!  So if you have lots of zucchini in your garden this summer, make a few batches and freeze them.  Or if you know they won’t get eaten fast enough, just pop them in a freezer bag and stick them in the freezer. You can even just pull out one or two at a time as needed.

They’re also actually quite tasty, so they’re definitely not just for toddlers. I just made them in a mini muffin pan so they were more toddler size, and were sneaking in some veggies for my picky little man. But let’s be honest, we can probably all use some more veggies in our lives! But with the carrots and spices, they’re almost like mini carrot cakes.

its good for you Carrots and zucchini are both full of vitamins of course; bran gives you lots of fiber; and there’s only a little sugar since the bananas naturally sweeten them. In fact, you could probably make them without any sugar at all, or even substitute applesauce (I’m planning to try that as soon as I have some more zucchini from my garden!)

banana carrot zucchini bran muffins 2

Start by shredding the carrots and zucchini in a food processor or with a box grater. Mix the butter and sugar, then add the bananas, eggs, and shredded veggies. The carrots and zucchini will get kind of stuck on the beaters, so you might have to stop occasionally and scrape them.

Mix in the dry ingredients, then spoon the batter into a muffin pan. Bake until they’re golden on top, let them cool, and enjoy!

banana carrot zucchini bran muffins

Sneaky Muffins (Banana Veggie Bran Muffins)

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 large, very ripe bananas
1 small-medium zucchini, shredded
2 medium carrots, shredded
2 eggs
1 cup flour
1/2 cup oat or wheat bran
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt

1. Preheat oven to 375 F.

2. With an electric mixer, mix butter and sugar together until smooth.  Add bananas, zucchini, carrots, and eggs, and mix well, until the bananas are smoothly mashed into the dough.

3. Add remaining ingredients, and mix until just combined.

4. Spoon batter into greased muffin or mini muffin pan.  Fill each muffin 2/3 to 3/4 full.

5. Bake for 13-15 minutes for mini muffins, or 15-18 minutes for regular muffins.  Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Yield: about 2 dozen mini muffins or 1 dozen regular muffins

change it upYou could also add raisins, chopped apples, or flax seed.

 

*I originally published this recipe on my other blog – A Song of Sixpence. It has more crafty/mommy ideas and such, so I decided to re-blog this recipe here.

Homemade Potato Chips – a first attempt

Potato chips – another perfect example of food that is so bad for you, and yet we eat mass quantities of it. According to several different sources, Americans eat 1.2 billion (with a B) pounds of potato chips every year! And I’ll admit that I totally understand why – they’re a pretty tasty, convenient snack, and available everywhere you turn. And let’s face it, there’s something about the combination of potatoes and salt that’s kind of hard to resist (remember my confession about my love of french fries?)

So I decided to attempt a healthier, homemade version of this oh-so-addictive snack. I started really simple – just salt and pepper flavored. I’m working on some other flavors, but first I want to figure out how to make them perfectly crispy without burning. These ones turned out ok – most were perfect, but some were burnt, and some were still a little mushy.

homemade potato chips 2

The weird thing is, it didn’t seem to necessarily go with the how thick/thin they were. Some of the mushy ones were some of the thinnest-sliced ones! So if any of you are chip-making pros, I’d love some tips!

I started off by slicing some potatoes as thinly as I could.

homemade potato chips 1

This might be easier using a food processor with the thin-slice blade. But alas, I don’t have one… some day (soon, hopefully!) So if you’re cutting them by hand, just go a little slower and slice as thinly as you can.

Then I tossed the potato slices with just a little olive oil, and fresh ground salt and pepper. I laid them out on a foil-lined baking sheet in a single layer so they wouldn’t stick and they could get nice and crispy.

homemade potato chips 3

Then I put them in the oven at 425 for about 25 minutes, turning over about half way through. Then I sorted the chips to find the ones that still needed to cook a little longer (about 1/4 of them) and popped those back in the oven for another 5-10 minutes. You can tell they’re done when the edges start curling, they start to get a little golden (not too golden – they’ll taste burnt!) and the surface looks bubbly and translucent.

homemade baked potato chips

Deliciously crispy crunchy goodness!

While these still aren’t the healthiest snack, they’re a lot better than most (all?) of the chips you’d buy at the store!

1. They’re baked, and with very little oil.
2. They still have the skins, which is where most of the vitamins and nutrients are.
3. They have way less salt!
4. They’re all natural – no preservatives or other nastiness.

Oh, and they’re way cheaper. You can get 10 pounds of potatoes for about the same price as a bag of chips.

Now I just have to figure out how to get ALL of them perfectly crispy, and come up with some other delicious flavors!

Mexican Rice

I love Mexican food. It’s totally comfort food for me. Few foods make me happier than super cheesy enchiladas or some shredded beef tacos or tamales. Oh, tamales.

Maybe it’s because of growing up in Southern California, but I don’t think I’ve ever gone more than a week without eating Mexican food except for the few months I lived in Europe. And even then, when  my mom sent me a package she included some tortillas and enchilada sauce!

That being said, I’m no expert at making authentic Mexican food (though I would love to be!) But I have come up with a few good recipes over the years, and am constantly searching for and working on more.

healthy taco salad with Mexican rice from scratch

This Mexican rice is pretty simple, and making it from scratch is a lot healthier than making packaged ones (they have soooo much sodium! and all sorts of preservatives and such). You basically just toss all the ingredients in a pot, put the lid on, and let it cook!

Mexican rice recipe

That’s fresh chopped cilantro on top of the bubbling rice. I love cooking with fresh herbs! Almost all of the ingredients for this recipe are fresh, and it makes the rice very flavorful.

Mexican rice from scratch

When it looks about like this, it’s done. Stir it up with a wooden spoon – the tomato sauce tends to be thicker on the top. If there’s still liquid, just cover it back up and cook for a few more minutes.

Mexican rice

It will be a little saucier than plain rice, but there shouldn’t be any standing liquid. It should look like this when it’s ready to serve.

Mexican Rice 

2 cups white rice
1 15 oz can tomato sauce
2 cups water
2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 cup frozen peas and carrots
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 Tbsp chopped cilantro (optional)

Place all ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat on the stove. Once it reaches boiling, cover and reduce heat to simmer. Simmer about 20 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender. Stir and serve!

Makes 6-8 servings (about 4 cups cooked rice)

change it upSqueeze in some lime juice for a little more flavor, or if you like things a bit spicier, add 1/2 a chopped jalapeño or sprinkle in some cayenne pepper.

easy Mexican rice recipe

It’s great on taco salads, in burritos, or just as a side dish.

Avocado Egg Salad Wrap

I love avocados. Maybe it’s from growing up in Southern California, or maybe it’s just because they’re amazing. Because seriously, they are. I add avocados to anything I can – including egg salad!

avocado egg salad spinach lime wrap

I’ve made this delicious wrap a few times now, and it’s definitely going into the lunch rotation, especially for those hot summer days coming (hopefully!) soon!

its good for you I made this on a whole wheat tortilla, so you get your fiber from the whole grains. And then you have the healthy fats from the avocado, all the amazing goodness of spinach, and the protein from the eggs!

The first thing you’ll need to do is hard boil the eggs. You’ll want to do this ahead of time – warm eggs aren’t great for egg salad. You can even do this several days ahead of time, and just keep them in the fridge until you’re ready to use them. Just put the eggs in a pot with enough water to cover them, put the pot on the stove over medium-high heat, and once it reaches a boil, boil them for 15 minutes. Then dump the hot water, rinse them in cool water, and stick them in the fridge.

When you’re ready to make your egg salad, cut up your avocado.

time saverTo make the avocado slicing go a little faster, cut all the way around the avocado and twist open. Pull out the pit. Then just quickly cut into the avocado flesh, making squares.

how to cut an avocado 1

Then just hold the avocado half in your hand, using your fingers to gently push the avocado meat up and out.

how to cut an avocado 2

Most of the avocado chunks should just fall right out. Turn the skin inside out and use your fingers to loosen any remaining pieces from the peel.

how to cut an avocado 3

To make the egg salad, put the peeled hard boiled eggs and the avocado chunks into a medium bowl. With a fork, roughly mash them together until it reaches the desired consistency – depending on how chunky or smooth you like your egg salad.

avocado egg salad 2

Then squeeze in the lime juice, tear in some cilantro, and toss in a few pinches of salt and pepper, and mix it all up.

avocado egg salad 3

On a whole wheat tortilla (or other wrap of your choice), lay out a bed of spinach. Scoop 1/4 of the egg mixture on top of the spinach.

avocado egg salad wrap 4

Wrap it up like a burrito, and enjoy!

Avocado Egg Salad Wraps

4 hard boiled eggs
1 avocado
1 lime
1 tbsp roughly chopped cilantro
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup + spinach
4 whole wheat tortillas (or other wraps)

1. Peel the hardboiled eggs and place them in a medium bowl. Cut up the avocado and add it to the bowl. Roughly mash with a fork until it reaches the desired consistency.

2. Squeeze in the juice from the lime. Add the cilantro, salt, and pepper, and mix well.

3. On each tortilla, make a bed of spinach leaves (as much or little as you want). Scoop 1/4 of the egg mixture on top of the spinach on each tortilla. Fold up the bottom, wrap it up, and enjoy!

Makes 4 wraps

change it upAdd some crumbled feta or fresh salsa for a different taste!

Green Hummus

Have any of you seen the Brian Regan bit about how cranberries are getting into everything? Well, first of all, it’s pretty funny, and second, I’m kinda feeling that way about spinach. But you know, I’m ok with spinach getting into everything. It’s so good for you, and it’s one of the few vegetables I can sneak into my two-year-old’s diet.

green spinach hummus

This recipe came from the week we took our son off dairy to see if that was the cause of some tummy troubles. And let me tell you, taking a kid off diary whose favorite food is cheese is quite a task! I had to get pretty creative, especially getting protein and calcium into him. Hence the green hummus.

  •     its good for you Chickpeas have lots of protein (and almost no saturated fat), and spinach has lots of calcium (and about           every other vitamin you can think of)!

And it was also really tasty, really healthy, really easy to make, and my little guy gobbled up his “green sauce” and asked for more!

One other thing that’s nice about this recipe – in addition to being very healthy and fresh, it’s also dairy-free, gluten-free, and soy-free, which I know is a big issue for a lot of people.

Oh, and did I mention that it’s super fast and easy to make? Well, it is! All you have to do is dump all the ingredients in a blender or food processor! I didn’t even measure the spinach – I just put the other ingredients in first, and then filled it with as much spinach as I could.

green spinach hummus recipe 1

green spinach hummus recipe

Just blend it all up, scraping down the sides occasionally. If it’s too thick/dry, add a tablespoon or two of water.

Green Hummus

Ingredients:
1 can chickpeas (garbanzo beans) (I used low-sodium)
2 Tbsp lime juice (about 1 lime)
2 Tbsp tahini or sesame seeds
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp cumin
1-2 cups spinach leaves
salt and pepper to taste
water (if needed)

1. Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender. (I didn’t measure the spinach, I basically just filled the rest of the food processor with as much as would fit.)

2. Blend all ingredients until smooth, stopping and scraping down the sides as needed. If it seems too thick, add a little water for a smoother consistency.

3. Serve with pita chips, veggie chips, crackers, vegetables, etc.

green spinach hummus 2

change it upYou could also add roasted red peppers, sundried tomatoes, a clove of garlic, or fresh cilantro for a little variety.